Wide Differences Between GGNRA, Dogwalkers on Leash Plan

Pro-dog protester. Photo: Amanda Stupi

Last night in Mill Valley, it was pretty clear that some interested parties think management of Golden Gate National Recreation Area has gone to the dogs, and not in a good way.

At the first of four public meetings set up by the GGNRA, dog owners howled their dismay over the agency's draft Dog Management Plan, which will prohibit off-leash dog walking in some areas that currently allow it.

The purpose of the plan, GGNRA says, is to "promote the preservation and protection of natural and cultural resources and natural processes" and "provide a variety of visitor experiences, improve visitor and employee safety, and reduce user conflicts."

Dog owners are not on board. From the Chronicle report on yesterday's meeting:

Dog lovers unleashed their frustration Wednesday as hundreds of people crowded into the first open house to discuss the Golden Gate National Recreation Area's voluminous management plan for man's best friend.

About two dozen protesters, trailing 10 or more collared companions, waved picket signs outside the meeting while many inside complained about a proposal by the recreation area to close four of six locations in Marin County where pet owners are now allowed to let their dogs off-leash.


And from the Marin Independent Journal:

I do think the preferred alternative is almost Draconian," said Margaret Harding of Mill Valley, who suggested a permit system for good dog walkers to allow pets off leash. Such a system exists in Boulder, Colo. "This plan doesn't acknowledge that it is a national recreation area that is unique. As they reduce the areas where we can walk dogs, it will put enormous pressure on the places you can."

Said Marabeth Grahame of Mill Valley: "It's our culture; people should be able to get outside, and we get outside with our dogs."

KQED News intern Becky Palmstrom today spoke with both a professional dogwalker who attended last night's meeting and with a GGNRA spokesman.

Angela Gardner is a representative of the San Francisco Professional Dogwalkers Association, and a firm opponent of the proposal. Howard Levitt is the GGNRA's Director of Communications and Partnership.

Listening to the clips in order will give you an idea of just how far apart the GGNRA and some dogwalkers are on this:

Howard Levitt: Reasons for the plan

Angela Gardner: The city's going to be overrun

Angela Gardner: We have just one percent; they want to ban dogs altogether

Howard Levitt: Plan presumes people will follow rules, but non-compliance may cause tightening of restrictions

Howard Levitt: We were able to identify areas where dogs can be off-leash

Angela Gardner: Dogs would be confined to smaller areas

Angela Gardner: "We're in a densely populated urban areas, we're not in the middle of Yellowstone park"

Angela Gardner: No evidence dogs cause environmental harm

Howard Levitt: Meetings designed to facilitate comments from public

Howard: Levitt: Meeting was a "wonderful dialogue"

Angela Gardner: There's no way to publicly comment orally, so have to stage rallies

Howard Levitt: We'll consider the comments very carefully

Levitt said the final plan will be released some time late this year. Then the process of making rules to fit the plan will begin. The final policy will not be in place for a good two years.

The final three public open-house meetings are at the following times and places:

March 5: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., San Francisco State University, Seven Hills Conference Center, State Drive, S.F.

March 7: 4 to 8 p.m., Fort Mason Center, Building A, Marina Boulevard at Buchanan Street, S.F.

March 9: 4 to 8 p.m. at Cabrillo School, 601 Crespi Drive, Pacifica.